Boomers Watch the Commercial Beat Go On

Well, it’s happening again, not that it ever stopped. Lately, there has been a rash of commercials using boomer music in them. Even locally, an area hospital is using Brenda Lee’s version of Baby Face (1959) to advertise their pediatric surgery department, and a regional supermarket chain has enlisted Roy Orbison’s You Got It (1989). Mister Boomer still isn’t sure how he feels about this particular form of cultural appropriation, and has written about this before (see Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma and Boomer Music: Here, There and Everywhere).

Yet with this latest batch, Mister B has to wonder … wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder. Why. Wha-wha-wha-wha-why? It seems plausible that commercials are now written by Gen Xers and Millennials for Gen Xers and Millennials, yet they choose to use boomer music rather than tunes from their own eras. This latest batch though, has a new out-of-the-ordinary twist in that the pairings of song to product seems to lean to more than a little bizarre. Take a look at some recent song usage that Mister B has seen in his area:

Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf (1968)
Was the song used for motorcycle insurance? Hair curl control? Or maybe … nope. How about Pampers diapers for babies? Now Fire all of your guns at once/ And explode into space has a whole new meaning.

Summertime, The Jamies (1958, re-released in 1962)
Mister B has to admit that McDonald’s has employed this summery ditty in a fun way. Pointing out the challenges of summer such as sunburn and bug bites, the commercial offers a McDonald’s meal as an something easy for summer, all to the strains of Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime …

Summer In the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
The ironic twist in this BMW car commercial is that the song says summer in the city, but the people driving are in the great expanse of the southwest. Try getting your neck burnt and gritty in a modern air-conditioned car.

To Love Somebody, The Bee Gees (1967)
Another odd paring, The Bee Gees are singing out for Facebook Groups. Yup, the venerable social media giant is advertising on TV, and using a Bee Gees tune to do it. The commercial tugs at the heartstrings, showing a father/daughter group heading to a baseball game. Mister B has to wonder whether the idea was generated by one of Facebook’s artificial intelligence engines.

I Think We’re Alone Now, Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)
HP computers is using the Tommy James tune with a nudge and a wink-wink. The crux of the commercial is a new feature on the computer that locks out the camera, barring any possible hacking. The premise is, this lock out is so no one will see you when you are doing the eccentric things you do when no one is looking — like toe nail clipping or posing in front of a mirror. Tommy James, however, isn’t singing about that at all.

This begs the question of why stop there? Certainly more strange pairings are ripe for the taking. Mister Boomer has some advice for companies looking to utilize boomer music:

• Hey Viagara and Cialis, ever think about acquiring Eight Days a Week by the Beatles (1964)? Can’t get the rights? There is always Me and My Arrow by Harry Nilsson (1970).

• Bathfitters, you are aiming your product primarily at homeowner boomers, so how about appropriating a song boomers have misheard for years anyway? Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising (1969) has been heard by millions to be, There’s a bathroom on the right. Throw enough money into it and maybe you can get John Fogerty to do a cameo.

• Is Robert Wagner still hawking reverse mortgages? Drop in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Our House (1970) for a lead-in and fade-out for that instant boomer connection. Not to your liking? How about Barry Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) from 1959?

What songs have you heard in commercials lately, boomers? Any suggestions of likely or unlikely pairings you’d like to add?

Boomers Watched As Mankind Took One Giant Leap

It was a summer Sunday, but one that was destined not to be just any summer Sunday. The air crackled with the excitement of an approaching storm, waiting with anticipation for the thunder that follows the lightning. Fifty years ago, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched on its mission to land men on the moon. A few days earlier, Brother Boomer blasted off in his 1965 Ford Mustang, headed for Cape Canaveral. He was determined to see this spectacle for himself; the beginning of the most momentous space exploration mission to date. The remainder of the Mister Boomer household would have to settle for watching on TV via the three networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.

Brother Boomer did make it down to Florida and observed the Apollo 11 launch. If Mister B recalls correctly, he was somewhere around Daytona Beach. From his vantage point, Brother Boomer watched as the Saturn V, the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built, spewed fire and smoke into the blue skies, arcing ever higher, until the first stage booster jettisoned off and fell into the ocean.

Ever since the first capsule rocketed into space, boomers were fascinated by the wonder and power of the booster rockets that propelled the brave astronauts into the unknown. Kits and models of all types were sold, including a replica of the Saturn V rocket that would hurl Apollo 11 into its trajectory to the moon. Brother Boomer had built his own Saturn V model kit, and now he was seeing firsthand the majesty of the real thing. Brother Boomer had a couple of model rockets. Mister B recalls one that was fueled by packing baking soda into the base. When Brother B dropped vinegar into the proper channel, the resulting chemical reaction sent the plastic rocket 30 feet into the air.

Having cleared the first phase of his mission to witness history, Brother B’s next phase was to return to the Midwest in time to see the first moon walk on TV. He docked with the home mothership on July 20.

Meanwhile, Mister Boomer does not recall any details of the early part of the day itself. It was a Sunday, so the family undoubtedly went to church in the morning, and like usual, visited both his grandmothers. His grandfathers had passed away within one year of each other in the early sixties, but the habitual Sunday visits to their homes continued. On returning home, he may have set out to meet neighborhood kids to play a game of catch, or perhaps watch someone launch a model rocket.

By 4 pm, however, Mister B knew exactly where he was: in front of the TV with his entire family, watching the live coverage. The streets were deserted as everyone had retreated inside to watch the drama unfold. Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin reached their destination on July 20, 1969. As Collins positioned the command module Columbia into lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin climbed into the lunar module and took it to the surface of the moon. At 4:17 pm EDT, Neil Armstrong announced to a waiting world, “The Eagle has landed.”

It would be six hours later before Neil Armstrong climbed down the lunar module’s ladder to take the first step any person had done on the surface of the moon. At Mister Boomer’s house, a collective sigh and a grin came over his family when the Eagle touched down. His mother prepared dinner in the intervening time. It was a rare occasion when the television was left on while the family ate, but this was no ordinary Sunday, and no one wanted to miss a minute. Once dinner was consumed, the family all retired back to the living room to watch the coverage. Finally, the time came, and Mister B’s family watched a scratchy black & white picture of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder to utter his now famous quote, which he maintained throughout his life was misquoted due to a gap in the voice transmission. His correct quote added an “a,” to be ,“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In 2006, NASA scientists analyzed the audio recordings of the moment, and found evidence of a 35-millisecond blip between “for” and “man,” long enough to have contained the missing “a.”

Brother Boomer recently told Mister B that he was so fascinated by the Space Race that he wanted to make his career in aeronautics, with a goal of working on space vehicles. Unable to gain access to relevant college courses in his area, he became a mechanical engineer instead. How many times did that story of inspiration repeat itself to shape the careers of other boomers?

There are many historical events that occurred during the boomer years, but the moon landing has to be at or near the top of the list. As a result, every boomer can answer, “Where were you when men walked on the moon?”

What’s your moon story, boomers?